And they lived happily ever after.
Episode Summary: The Black Fairy’s curse hits Storybrooke trapping Killian, Snow, Charming, Regina, Zelena, and co. in the Enchanted Forest while Emma’s in a Psychiatric Hospital and it’s up to Henry to help her believe again. As it turns out, if Emma stops believing that the life she once had is real, it’ll fade from existence. Rumple faces his mother one last time. The families reunite. And they live happily ever after.
Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time is a special show — for six years it has allowed us to begin our weeks with the faith and belief that no matter how hard things get, there’s always a happy ending in store. And while the “The Final Battle” was anything but a perfect episode, the stories it told were stunning. Once Upon A Time may not be over for good, but a prodigious chapter has ended — a chapter that’s changed lives. A little bit of happiness in the midst of dark days where television series are uncertain, but where Once Upon A Time was concerned, we always knew it’d end well. It’d end up leaving us with a surplus of hope. It’d leave us a little braver.
I’ll be honest; this wasn’t my favorite finale Once Upon A Time has done. “There’s No Place Like Home” takes the crown for that one, but an ending of a chapter has left me, and presumably many others with a great number of feelings. Where “The Final Battle” was concerned, it was essentially underwhelming, and what saved the finale, what made it beautifully special were the parallels to the very first episode. The reminder that these stories began long ago and through perseverance and belief, today these characters live with love in their hearts. It was seeing how far they’ve come that’s made up for the lackluster plot.
Once Upon A Time has always been Emma Swan’s story. And although each character is immensely important, the creation of a new fairytale allowed us to discover something bigger within ourselves. It also allowed gave us another princess to care for. (Raise your hand if you’ll say Emma Swan the next time someone asks you who your favorite princess is.) It was through Emma’s odyssey that we were given the opportunity to grow with fairytale characters we thought we knew, and stories we thought we were complete. They created a new beginning, which we were fortunate enough to live through for six years. And in “The Final Battle”, we got to close the book on an indescribable journey. In “The Final Battle” we truly got to see how far the lost girl has come — where she once wore an armoring red leather jacket, today she’s in a bright red suede jacket, walls down wearing pure elation in her eyes and more heroic than ever.
When it comes to this show, I have a lot of favorite episodes, but when it comes to TV Pilots, Once Upon A Time’s will always be number one. There was something so unbelievably, indescribably special about this show’s very first episode. (A shame I wasn’t writing about it back then, but also a blessing because I wouldn’t be able to describe my love for it.) From the very first frame to the last, it was riveting in a way no fairytale has ever been. And I knew right away that this show would become a great love of mine. It made all the sense in the world to have “The Final Battle” mirror the Pilot. (Which is also why I really wish we’d change the name of the reboot because Once Upon A Time as we know it has concluded.) That said, I’ll always be a fan of happy endings, I want to be in tears over a show’s ending, but I also want it to be something I can revisit later on, and “The Final Battle” was both.
But before I get into everything I adored about the finale, I do want to get my disappointments out of the way. (I truly wish there weren’t any, but alas, here we are.) As mentioned above, the finale wasn’t perfect — it could have been, but ample opportunities were missed in order to make it truly spectacular. The final battle itself was perhaps the most anti-climactic battle in Once Upon A Time’s history and it saddens me to say that. While I can certainly understand that this was Rumple’s fight, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that it felt as though we wasted the opportunity to let Emma shine in her final episode. (I’m aware that Jennifer Morrison has agreed to return for one more episode in season seven, but in a sense, this was still Emma’s final journey in this chapter.) To have the new curse break because Rumple killed his mother and not because Emma remembered was disheartening. It was so quick I didn’t even realize it was happening. And I was also certain that she’d somehow come back because that couldn’t have been it.
Additionally, the separation into different realms is so season three. And that would’ve been fine by me if the series played on it differently, which once again takes me back to the Black Fairy’s demise being so substandard. If for instance Emma began to believe a little more, which she was beginning to, and the magic bean worked allowing Killian to find her, everything would’ve been gorgeous. The potency of true love’s kiss finding its way into their story as well would’ve been beautiful, especially since they’ve had two attempts at it. The third time’s a charm, right? And since Emma’s the savior, it could’ve worked for this curse? Maybe? She was beginning to remember him and the wedding so the shot at least would’ve been worth it. It would’ve also been a great callback to “New York City Serenade”, too. But that entire vision of mine aside, for an episode that was supposed to be the last for a lot of cast members, I selfishly wanted them to be together more. If the Black Fairy’s death were different, a little more substantial at least, these little things wouldn’t bother me as much. I suppose Emma’s episode truly was “The Song in Your Heart.”
And let’s be honest here for a moment, where Rumple’s redemption is concerned, this wasn’t the proper way to do it. He’s done it once more through his father and a few episodes later it was the same old story. While Carlyle’s performance was undoubtedly genius, I still worry about his character’s decisions. How do we know that it’ll be different this time? Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact that Gideon turned into a baby again allowing Belle and Rumple to raise him properly, but I needed a little more to be certain that Rumple wouldn’t resort to his old ways.
On a positive note, where there’s hope, there’s always a way, and this is a lesson Once Upon A Time excels at showcasing. “The Final Battle” did a great job of reminding us how far these characters have come, and while it wasn’t necessary, for a show like this it worked perfectly. And first up on this list was Killian Jones — reminding us of the selfish ambitions he was once governed with. It’s always beautiful to know that much like Charming when separated from their wives, their True Loves, they’ll do anything to find them again. And I appreciated David joining Killian on an adventure at the beanstalk because it wraps up that storyline not with a bow, but with neat little vines. The beanstalk is special, as Killian states: “It was our first adventure together, but my motives were less than chivalrous. (…) Granted it was hardly love at first sight, but things changed. We changed. We made each other better. Emma and I were never a pre-destined love story guaranteed a happy ending. We fought for our love and we won. (…) Our story began on that beanstalk and I’ll be damned if it ends there.” A moment that Colin O’Donoghue delivered with resolute, visceral pain, love, and fervor, every time he said “my wife”, it was clear that his heart shattered at the possibility of their marriage being short-lived. When we met Captain Hook in “Tallahassee” he was a self-loathing, selfish pirate out for his own gain, but it was always evident that his heart hadn’t been fully tainted, and it was clear that this adventure, of all adventures, would play a crucial role in his life.
It may not have been love at first sight, and while the two didn’t recognize it then, they found a kindred spirit in one another — a lost soul who’s been alone for so long, they’ve mostly been in positions where they’ve only ever had to look out for themselves. And that recognition sparked something within them, later prompting Killian to want to better himself. When you find someone whose character inspires you, intuitively, you find ways to be worthy of their trust. And that’s exactly what Killian has done after meeting Emma — he’s fought the dark temptations in order to choose the honorable, heroic path. In the same way, Emma’s chosen to open her heart to the possibility of a happy ending. She’s chosen to see the best in people, the best in him. It’s lovely really, to have not only Snow but Charming, to know the story of the beanstalk. (Poor dear old dad was never told about the great big beanstalk adventure.) But it’s admirable that Killian didn’t sugarcoat the story, he tells it how it is, dark, difficult, and challenging. Not to keep reiterating the same thing, but as I’ve said in the past, “Lost souls can always recognize each other — it’s as though the moment they meet, they attach themselves to one another in a kind of matrimony we’re incapable of understanding. An attachment that leads us on a quest to find ourselves, love ourselves, and accept ourselves. In many ways, love is unearthly and indescribable, and when it’s true, it passes each and every test in its path.”
It’s never been a challenge to love one another, for Killian and Emma, that’s been effortless, but they’ve both needed to fight in order to prove that they’re perfectly fitted for one another. They’ve needed to respect the other’s agency, they’ve needed to constantly learn about each other, they’ve needed to open up, and they’ve needed to find each other. And they’ve done so beautifully allowing their love to unfold into an epic, breathtaking story. Together they’ve grown into their strongest, best selves, and in loving one another, they’ve kept darkness away. They’ve always won.
Where relationships are concerned, it’s always gorgeous to be reminded of how far we’ve come, and to go from, “you’re nothing but a pirate”, to “son … in-law” is the perfect amount of (extra) whipped cream on waffles. David was always going to be the hardest to win over — for a father, it’s never easy to give their daughter away, and it’s especially not easy when the potential suitor has a dark past. And for a while, that’s stopped David from giving Killian his full blessing, but today, he knows more than anybody that there will be no one else in the world, other than he and Snow, who’d risk their entire life to protect Emma. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that Killian is perfectly fit for his little girl. But there’s also great power in hearing David call Killian his son-in-law, and the brief pause before adding “in-law” was so very acute to their relationship. In a sense, Killian is David’s (second) son. Killian knew he was accepted into the family, but to know that David does in fact consider him a son, a part of their family when his own father neglected him is a lovely addition. It’s no doubt it’d be a comforting thought that at the end of the day, he not only has love in his life, but a family — people who care for him not because he’s married to their daughter, but because he’s a man deserving of kindness, love, and ceaseless support. Plus, the scene gave Colin O’Donoghue and Josh Dallas the perfect comedic little moment. And of course, who wouldn’t appreciate the charming little “hello there, mummy” when Snow finds him? Snow’s eye-roll too was perfect. (Seriously though, if the show decided to take the comedic route, it would definitely succeed.)
Again, where change is concerned, it was interesting to see Regina in the Evil Queen outfit continue to show determination and change. It sincerely does authenticate how far she’s come in her journey, and as sad as it is, it’s fascinating to see her stand on her own with no romantic interest. It’s tragically unfortunate, that she and Robin weren’t given the happy ending they deserved, but for Regina’s story, it showcases how far she’s come today.
The sole purpose of Regina’s curse was due to her emptiness without Daniel, the vengeance for what Snow’s innocent betrayal had done to the love of her life. But today, while Regina is without love, and has once again experienced heartbreak through love, she’s perfectly content with her family. She could have been back then as well, but bringing them back to the place where she threatened to destroy the happy endings of Snow and Charming, to helping them find their daughter was a gorgeous end to her story. While I felt the return of the Evil Queen was unnecessary, I appreciated seeing that both she and wish realm Robin have turned their lives around. I appreciated knowing that in some unearthly way, the two of them can be. Without even knowing it, this is essentially all I’ve wanted for Regina. I’ve wanted her to find a happy ending, but it’s fitting that she’d find it through family and not love. While perhaps one day she could find it if she pleases, to see her in a place where she’s content truly showcases the heroic journey she’s chosen. She and her sister could raise Robin together. Whatever the future holds, it’s beautiful knowing that they’ll always have each other. It’s beautiful knowing that their paths and the battles they faced together led them here. The competitions aside, they were meant to find each other. They were meant to be sisters — best friends. They were both meant to turn their lives around and live the lives their mother could never have given.
Furthermore, that’s essentially always been the whole purpose of Once Upon A Time — the exhibition of a family: whether platonic or romantic, it’s always been the choice to love people through the good, bad, and the ugly. And who’d serve as better examples than the Charmings. (It’s a shame we never got to know David’s real, Enchanted Forest last name. So I guess that makes Charming the canon last name now, right? It is written on their doormat.) Charming and Snow are the reason a lot of us fell in love with the romance on Once Upon A Time. They are the epitome of a fairytale dream, and from the moment we watched their story begin, we knew there’d always be magic present when they were around. And the presence of magic never faded from their moments, a magic that was beautifully transparent in the finale as they explored their past in their present with a series of twists. Of course, we’d have Snow wake Charming up with True Love’s kiss to which he’d utter the words: “you found me.”
Of course, she’d respond with “did you ever doubt I would?”, to which he’d say: “truthfully? The beanstalk that fell on me gave me pause.” Was it too cliché? Perhaps, but for this show, and this couple especially, it was absolute perfection. There’s no on-screen chemistry as beautiful as Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin’s, and it’s a pleasure to watch them breathe life into Charming and Snow. It was a pleasure to watch them recreate their first moments. It was a pleasure to watch them reunite with their daughter and dress their son up in adorable little outfits. (Did anyone squeal at his little Enchanted Forest outfit? And the cry! I mean, it only took three years but at least he got some dialogue.)
I’m a little torn on the final battle being a war against Emma’s mind. On one hand, it’s a brilliant take on fairytales and brings her back to the lost girl she used to be, but I don’t appreciate the idea of the realms disappearing based on her unbelief. It makes it seem as though they aren’t actual people, but rather figments of her imagination. And while that’s not the case, the execution of the idea wasn’t entirely genius. That said, bringing back Operation Cobra to give Emma one last push to believe was a beautiful way to remind us of how special the relationship between mother and son has always been. Henry has the heart of the truest believer, and it’s beautiful to be reminded of the fact that his memories would never fade. Whatever curse has attempted to obliterate their memories, Henry’s has always been intact. And to bring that relationship to the center allowed for the audience to truly experience the growth with them. To take Emma back to her apartment, show us the candle she made her wish on, and have her return with a bit of hope was something indescribable. I never thought we’d see her apartment again, and I may or may not have cried. (I totally did, you all know me by now.)
Henry being the one to wake up Emma after she had “died” was the perfect callback to the Pilot — the ultimate, parallel — a moment of pure magic. As beautiful and as true as a mother’s love is for her son, in the same way, the heart of the truest believer will always have a special place for his mom. Henry and Emma have made one another braver and happier. And the belief they’ve always had one another has paved their roads and strengthened them in an unsurpassed way.
Emma’s choice to throw her sword and choose light was the ultimate showcase of her heroism. Emma’s bravery and kindness has been the root of her strength. She’s always been different because although she’s had a dark, heartbreaking past like most villains, she’s done the right thing. She’s chosen the honorable road. She’s chosen to make lives easier for those who are deserving. She’s chosen justice. She’s chosen kindness. And choosing to step aside today in order to let light win was expected of her. In the same way that she took the darkness upon herself in “Operation Mongoose,” Emma chose to protect the light. And while it was nerve-wracking to watch that scene, it ended gorgeously with fantastic performances on both Morrison’s and Matthey’s ends. Two kids finally putting an end to the Black Fairy’s disgusting games.
Finally, Once Upon A Time is a show about hope. And who better to stand as the symbol of hope than Snow White — it was so fitting of Snow to deliver the answer to the posed question of “what now?” A response perfectly fitted to come from a brave princess who has fought with a fire in her heart to remain hopeful in even the darkest moments.
“Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a powerful thing, but living with that kind of belief…that’s the most powerful thing of all. That’s hope. So you ask, “what now?” Now, we get to keep going on. We get to keep doing what we love, with the people we love. An ending isn’t happiness. Being together is. What now? Now? Now, we get to do what’s next.”
It was a line that triggered the waterworks to come streaming, a line that evoked chills. The line that started it all and it ended it. Life is never going to be just easy, it’ll always have its disastrous floods and heartbreaking reveals, but where there’s a belief that the sun will rise, there’s also the possibility. There’s hope. If I could culminate my appreciation for this verse, I would’ve already done so, but some things stand beautifully on their own; they need no further words, and this was one of those moments.
What else does a slightly jaded finale need to make it beautiful? An epic montage that turns us into sobbing wrecks of course. Again, I have my issues with this show — strong issues, but when I put my imaginations, and my own biased opinions aside, what’s unfolded in front of me is indeed full of unparalleled magic. Mark Isham’s compositions have always contributed to bringing depth and potency into a scene, but his montage theme is indescribable. To watch all the lands restore in their gorgeous ways. To see that Charming and Snow have bought a farmhouse right before Snow went off to teach, wearing the gorgeous little blue hat she wore in season one was a masterful beginning. Emma and Regina sending Henry off to school. To see Killian appointed Emma’s deputy before they ride off together in the yellow bug. (Give them a honeymoon please!) The dwarfs replacing Regina’s office with “Queen” surprisingly put a huge smile on my face. Wish Realm Robin’s proposal to the Evil Queen. And though I still have endless trust issues with Rumple, as my favorite Disney song, the “Tale as Old as Time” melody will always get to me.
To watch all the characters we fell in love with meet at Granny’s Diner, the heart of Storybrooke, for a celebratory meal was all that I could’ve wanted and more. To know that they’d have a peaceful dinner together, as a family, is the kind of integral beauty we’ve all been waiting for. We constantly hear that home isn’t a place, it’s people — it is finding something that you’d miss tremendously when you’re separated, and it is a place of comfort. It is a place where everything is better, safer, and happier. And today, we know that this band of outcasts have found serenity. They’ve found a home. In each of their expressions, we were gifted with incandescent, impeccable happiness, and infinite hope. We watched it unfold beautifully, but most importantly we felt it.
Do I wish the scene had dialogue? 110%. I wanted more. I feel as though the fans deserved more. And while I’m content with what we were given, I’m saddened by what we’ll never see again. So perhaps that’s the reason behind my disappointment. It’s sadness. Overall, while the finale left some open ends, like that final moment with Henry and his daughter Lucy., it’s tied most of the storylines up. It’s left us with an ample amount of things to smile about. It’s left us with hope and belief that happiness is right around the corner. If we’re willing to fight for something, through perseverance and belief, we’ll make it. And when we have a family by our side, people we’ve chosen to ride through life with, we’ll always be winners.
Writer’s Farewell: If I kept some sort of a diary back then, I would’ve written down the date I decided to start reviewing Once Upon A Time and it would’ve made this little bit a lot more sentimental. (Or maybe that’s just me?) Nonetheless, I may not remember the date I made my decision, but I do remember the first time I sat down to write my review for season three’s premiere episode, “The Heart of the Truest Believer.” And looking back, not much has changed, I still have an instrumental blaring through my headphones while I sit in a dimly lit room with a Mahogany Teakwood scented candle burning on my left-hand side. I may be in a new room, in a new home, but some traditions remained. I also still have coffee by my side, although I’m pretty sure last time it was a Pumpkin Spice Latte granted it was Autumn then and that’s my go-to writing treat. Today, it’s just a simple iced coffee with a splash of two percent milk and one raw sugar for the crunch. (Yeah, I’m weird. We’ve established this already.)
Some things may be the same, but I’m not the same person who wrote that very first review. A great amount has changed within these past four years, and I owe a lot of it to this crazy, amazing beautiful show. If you had said to me that writing about this show, these characters, these stories would make me braver, I’d laugh. How could a show do that? Oh, but it has. That’s been my life — from Boston to New York, all the way to D.C., from Wisconsin then Seattle to Vancouver on what we called The Duckling Adventures. An epic journey with amazing friends — slumber parties watching our favorite episodes followed by profound, beautiful conversations about life. When I started writing about Once Upon A Time, I’d only been writing TV reviews for a year. As I mentioned in my farewell letter to Emma Swan, writing about her character made me braver. And it is because of her character that I have been fortunate enough to meet the best people in the world — the friends who’ve each, in their own unique way changed my life for the better. They’ve made my life brighter and more beautiful.
Fandom is an interesting thing, it starts off as a little corner where mutual opinions are shared and without even realizing how it happened, you’re having discussions about your everyday lives. It’s effortless, it’s profound, it’s unlike anything else that’ll ever be experienced. It’s something not many people are able to understand, but when they find it, they then discover the magic.
It’s now 9:43 PM, Wednesday the 17th of May, and I’m sitting here rambling because I don’t know how to say goodbye. I’ve always struggled with finding the right words because I’m a perfectionist and it’s actually a great flaw. It tortures you. And when I want to do something justice, like a lot of reviews for this show, I shut down because I don’t know how my words could ever be enough. I’m now in the same boat again because I don’t know how to culminate the right words to go off on a memorable note. Although the show has been renewed, I have made the decision not to return. It’s time to close this chapter in my life and no matter how ready I thought I was, I’m still way too emotional writing this. I’m emotional because I’m wholeheartedly grateful for all that this show has left me with. An irreplaceable group of friends who I’m certain will be in my life forever. A group of friends I’m a better person because of. In the same way that the characters have found a little family together, so have we. While we’re all people with our own families and friends, our lives have morphed together in beautiful harmony strengthening the bonds we formed through honesty and adoration.
To Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Lana Parrilla, and every amazing guest star — thank you for breathing life into your characters impeccably. Your performances have always been exquisite and I’m sure I speak on behalf of many when I say we’re fortunate to have watched you all. Thank you to the creators, writers, and crew for bringing us something indescribable through this show.
To my beautiful girls, you know exactly who you are — you all mean the absolute world to me. Your light during my dark days will never be forgotten. I couldn’t have gotten through any of this without your love, kindness, and support on my side. God knew what He was doing when we were all introduced, I’m certain of this. And I’m forever here for all of you. We’re in it for the long haul. Congrats on being stuck with me. (:
The amazing, indescribable band of writers, there are no words for how much you all inspire me — absolutely none. Your work is magic, ceaseless perfection, and always a work of art. Meredith, Katie, Marianne, and Maii — you’re all so insanely gifted, and I love each of you so very much. To find a group of women who support one another as fervently as we have is rare, and I can’t wait for all the projects you each have in store next.
And finally, I wanted to extend my deepest, most sincere gratitude to those who’ve taken the time to read these reviews. Whether it was that one time or every single time, I’ve always smiled reading the feedback. And sometimes, I cried. (Actual tears. Happy tears.) My day has always been made better because of the kindness you’ve all shown me. I will never have the right words to express how thankful I truly am. So many of you have become the loveliest friends and this is only the beginning.
Once Upon A Time will always be an incredibly special show in my life. It’ll never be absent from this website. I can’t promise too much, but I can promise that I will always find ways to write about it. I’ll always refer to it. You can’t forget something that’s made such a profound impact on your life. You simply can’t. It’s a gift to be a fan of this show, to have walked the streets of Steveston, Vancouver while it was Storybrooke, Maine. It’s a gift to have been present through all the milestones, as they were shown live. The meltdowns we’ve all had as fangirls (and boys!) when a favorite couple of ours shared their first kiss. It’s been an absolute gift to see these characters find their happy beginnings. A show that’ll truly change your life is something I believe comes once in a lifetime, and Once Upon A Time is that show for many of us.
I pray that if you haven’t already, you find your new beginnings. I pray that your life reaches unparalleled beauty and that each day, you are fortunate enough to see that life is truly good. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Here’s to meeting again someday. Prior to writing this portion, I kept choking up while listening to Taylor Swift’s “Long Live,” it’s so fitting for us all isn’t it?
Long live all the magic we made
I’ve had the time of my life fighting dragons you.
Here’s to hope, faith, love, and happiness being a perpetual presence in all our lives. May you all shine as I’m certain you will.